Vancouver to Alaska Road Trip Advice

May 26th, 2010, 02:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2010
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Vancouver to Alaska Road Trip Advice

Hello guys, Im new to this forum.
Im from Ireland, and have always wanted to see Alaska. My wife and I are planning a trip to Canada and Alaska next April 2011. And Id appreciate any advice on our initial route we are planning.
1. Fly into Vancouver, we have relatives there. Stay 1 or 2 nights.
2. Road Trip north into Yukon/Alaska. This is where id appreciate some advice.
The general idea is to spend 12 days travelling North hopefully, as far as Fairbanks/Denali National Park.
First question, is this achievable in 12 days?
Along the way we would hope as our first main stop, to stay in Prince George, and visit Monkman Provincial Park & Barkerville.
Second question, google maps says 10 hours for this journey, so I guess a nights stay somewhere in between would be appropriate?? Any suggestions? Kamloops maybe?
Second stop, we are thinking of maybe Dawsons Creek, Mile Zero.
After that, the plan is to drive the Alaska Highway through, Fort Nelson, then Liard Hot Springs/Muncho Lake.
After that, Watson Lake and on to Whitehorse.
Then on through Haines Junction and on to Tok.
After that its either a choice of Anchorage or Fairbanks depenmding on where we can get flights home out of. With a visit to Denali thrown in for good measure.
What do people think of the above?
Is it achievable in 12 days? Any commenst would be greatly welcomed.
Are there any of these roads likely to be closed in the last two weeks of April?

Thank you.
Howey is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 02:13 AM
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Another quick question, does the Alaska Highway run continously across the Alaska/Canada border? Goof mape wont let me plot a route along this way?
Can I cross the border at this point?
Howey is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 07:32 AM
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I think you should reconsider your plans. That is not the time of year to be driving to Alaska. Even driving from Vancouver to Fort St. John could be hazardous depending on the weather conditions.
laverendrye is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 03:24 PM
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As mentioned April is still 'late winter' and roads will be in need of maintenance and some could be in poor shape-are you aware that much of your route is unpaved?

6 days each way is enough time to drive up and back but not enough to have much of a look around-you're much better off flying instead of seeing nothing but miles and miles of miles and miles all through a windshield.
Sam_Salmon is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 08:38 PM
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You could consider going up the west coast via ferry and seeing the Inside Passage and some of the Alaska coast that way. The weather on the coast will be a bit better than the interior.
Driving up the route you describe would be foolish that time of year. You will also need to deal with significant car rental charges - one way plus driving that highway plus dropping off in another country will cost you (if it's even allowed).
Or fly into Alaska and use the train and bus routes for getting around and over to the Yukon Territory.
taggie is offline  
May 27th, 2010, 01:00 AM
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Thank you to all who replied above. I appreciate the comments.
Firstly, Sam_Salmon, this would be a one-way drive. We would fly out of Anchorage on our way back to Ireland.
I am the first to admit I know nothing about weather conditions in Alaska/Yukon in April, which is why I posted here to get some advice! I really want to see Yukon/Alaska, and next April suits us. Would July/August be much better?
I think your right about the car rental charges, it seems impossible to find a hire company that will allow me a drop off in another country.
Can someone sugggest a great wayof combining seeing relatives in Vancouver, seeing some of the Yukon and some of Alaska? Im open to all suggestions, including internal flying.
Thanks guys.
Howey is offline  
May 28th, 2010, 02:34 AM
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What about a cruise?...They leave Vancouver and arrive in Alaska stopping along the wouldn't be able to go in April..only from May to September I believe.
jannieween is offline  
May 30th, 2010, 06:10 AM
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Absolutely a cruise! And the Inside Passage is beautiful! Fly into Vancouver, stay a few days and then cruise. It is a wonderful vacation with beauty all around and the cruiseline providing the transportion and dining. We went with Holland and can recommend them.
cd is offline  
May 30th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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The timing likely won't work with a cruise, and the OP is planning to go one way and fly back from Anchorage. So a cruise isn't the best option.

It's possible to do the trip up the coast without a car. Look into the ferries for BC and Alaska. You can sail the Inside Passage and then use rail and bus to get to some spots in Alaska and the Yukon.
taggie is offline  
May 31st, 2010, 03:43 AM
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So in a nutshell everybody, should I just wait until the summer??
Howey is offline  
May 31st, 2010, 06:36 PM
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If you want to do something in April, a cruise would be your best bet. Lindblad Expeditions, the ultimate, National Geographic-sponsored small ship cruise line has a cruise in April that fits your itinerary.
rushmoreair is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 08:16 PM
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Holland America Line has cruisetours between Vancouver and Anchorage that visit the Inside Passage, Yukon, and interior Alaska.

You can originate in either city and end in the other. They operate May-September.

To see if they are of interest, go to

There is a box on the lower left with tabs on the top - one says "CRUISE" and the other says "CRUISETOUR". You want to select CRUISETOUR.

In the first pulldown menu ("Any region") you want to look at the first two options (#1-6 and #7-10). As 1 day is not enough at Denali, you would want to look at Tours 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, and 10.

Cruisetours have pros and cons, but this is a way you could visit some of the places you want (although your schedule is determined by the tour operator). Be aware that HAL tends to cater to an older demographic.
Cranachin is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 08:19 PM
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To do a self-drive trip, you could see if you could rent a car in Vancouver, drop it in Whitehorse (or maybe Dawson City), take a bus to Fairbanks, rent another car there, and drop it in Anchorage (if you do a one-way rental).

It would be expensive to do one-way rentals, but you would at least have your own car.

Be aware that most rental-car companies explicitly prohibit you from taking their cars on gravel roads. If you do it anyway and the car is damaged, which it almost certainly WILL be, there are significant penalties.
Cranachin is offline  
Jun 9th, 2010, 12:34 PM
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Geez... these responses are just waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of context for what the man is asking, except when related to the costs and prohibitive nature of one-way international vehicle rentals.

First of all, APRIL can typically be just fine for such a drive. Most of the trip is just you, on one path, driving through dense forests on a paved and fine highway.

Yes, terrible winter weather CAN happen, randomly, during the particular window of your hoped-for journey, but you can't predict when weather is most likely to deviate from seasonal averages.

I have driven the Alaska Highway in early April, and found that the scenery was exceptional for reasons of snow-capped peaks and frozen lakes.

During a 2400-mile journey from Seattle to Anchorage I encountered roughly 30 miles of unpaved roadway, and compact snow and ice on the roadway in only one stretch, for possibly 20 miles, when crossing the Rocky Mountains in northern BC.

I was in a rental car, and did ZERO damage to the standard, 2-door sedan. You just SLOW DOWN appropriately when on the gravel parts of the roadway.

(clarity: the road is basically 'paved' all the way, but each year various sections need to be updated after winter damages)

Additionally, on the Alaska Hwy they do things right... when there is a "BUMP" on the road, not only do they have the standard yellow sign indicating an upcoming bump, BUT they have a little flag at the EXACT location OF the bump.

Some of the benefits to traveling in April include the ability to stop right in the middle of your lane for any photo opportunity you see. (the nearest car would be heard 5 miles away before it ever came near you) The scenery is probably better with snow and ice as mentioned... AND there are no mosquitoes, and NO TRAFFIC!! (I drove for 7 hours one day and saw just 2 or 3 cars going my direction, in what was the Yukon)

Now indeed there was snow overnight on my path at Chetwynd, BC... and I watched news reports of terrible weather from the Canadian Prairies all the way to Nova Scotia before setting off from Chetwynd into the uncertain. It turned out that weather was just never a factor at all, and that I never once drove in snowy conditions until I reached Anchorage (and then drove to Seward, AK).

Upon crossing the Yukon-Alaska border it was TWO degrees farenheit (after 11pm). The things you're likely to want to do on that journey just aren't much different when it's 72 degrees vs. 24 degrees. In terms of raw scenery, the wintery, mountains scenes are much more picturesque than their summer counterparts. Seeing bison and cariboo grazing at the side of, and in some cases ON the road seemed a natural encounter.

Anyway, the OP should pay attention to precise selection of nightly stops, because it isn't like much of the rest of society where if you don't like this motel, the next one is beckoning you from four miles down the road.

Twelve days is plenty for the one-way journey. I drove the opposite way from Anchorage to Calgary (2000 miles) in three days, which was all driving, and a considerable rush, so twelve days will be fine.

In my opinion, the awesome scenery around Kluane Lake, YK was the best on the whole path I took, and it really helped all the way to have nobody else on the road and not have to wait for ages to pass bulky RV's as their occupants doddered to and fro.

I strongly urge the OP to keep considering the April journey, and know that my journey began on April 1, so if you push it back two or three weeks the weather would likely respond in kind.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 01:19 AM
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Wow, Thanks NorthWestMale for your objective view. Your advice has really made me reconsider. How did you find accomadation along the way? Easy to find?
Howey is offline  
Jun 16th, 2010, 11:07 AM
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Hello again,

Once you resign yourself to having THIS option (slash 'town') or the NEXT option (slash 'town') 250 to 300 miles apart, then finding accommodations in April will be no problem at all. (upon stopping at the border guard going into Alaska, I said "I'm just a tourist", and the man said: "well, you beat the rush")

Translation: you can plainly SEE on any map just where the various towns are, most quite far apart, so you can schedule your days and nights accordingly. Once you've decided to stay at, say, "Fort Nelson" and at "Whitehorse" then you KNOW that you need to cover 591 miles in between them. IF you don't wish to do that in one day, then it is a MUST (just about) that you will schedule a night in Watson Lake.

I'm merely saying that, when you're getting tired at some point, you CAN'T expect to see Tom Bodett having left the light on for you (at a Motel 6) somewhere out in the hinterlands.

(I DID somehow see a 24-hour gas station out in the sticks somewhere west of Kluane Lake and east of Alaska).

When you really take-in what is "THE TRIP" alone on the Alaska Highway, the difference between travel when it is 66 degrees out, vs. 36 degrees, isn't much.

Using Whitehorse as an example, April 1 has for an average high temp of 36 degrees and an average low temp of 16

In Whitehorse on April 20 the average high temp is 44F and the average low is 24.

I found, also, that it was more useful to appreciate life for the locals when I was there in 30 degree weather vs. 70 degree weather. The 25-square-inch windows in the motel rooms in Whitehorse were easier to appreciate when the temperature dipped down to 5 degrees at night than they would have been had it been 70 degrees outside.

Again, most of the path between Dawson Creek and Tok, Alaska has you driving on a 2-lane highway which slashes its way through otherwise-THICK forests of lush green trees.

When you're lucky, impressive mountains and/or bodies of water line the horizons. One of my first inclinations upon returning home was to buy a ream of PAPER, thinking that they must have enough lumber for all of us!

Some highlights up there were Bison lining both sides of the road and just grazing as if man or the roadway was their least concern. Once I drove around a curve, toward a lake, and saw Cariboo casually grazing near the roadway and a couple out in the middle of the lanes. (plenty of time to slow down and be in awe of them)

Once you get to Alaska, the giant mountains all around are pretty amazing. (on the way home I drove from Calgary, Alberta west through the Canadian Rockies and knew I'd have been very impressed IF ONLY I'd not just come from Alaska)

I can't tell you what it would have been like, on those roads, had I steadily had to slow down for seemingly long stretches of time just to wait to get around RV's and camper vehicles in front of me.

My timing was quite pleasant, and I think you have a window of time through late April and even May where you can hedge your bets against severe wintery weather AND still beat the major tourist rush and the mosquitoes too.

Gas prices and the economy may keep things even more in your favor with regard to having too many others on those picturesque roads.

Hope this helps.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Aug 21st, 2010, 05:45 PM
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Hi Howey,
I am SO glad NorthwestMale stepped in on this discussion. I was gasping in disbelief when earlier respondents suddenly started suggesting a cruise ship would be a better option!!!! Good grief! Talk about off topic! My husband and I have done this road trip at various times of the year, over the years, and via several different routes and in several kinds of vehicles and it was all good. Everything NorthwestMale stated is excellent and dead on. We are about to leave for Whitehorse next weekend - this time we are spoiling ourselves and are in a small campervan - and we will be going via the Alaska Hwy so we don't anticipate anything but wonder and fun along the route. If you have any more questions or doubts, I would be happy to respond.
Encantadora is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 07:47 AM
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Hi Encantadora,

Thank you for your reply. We have decieded to visit canada/Alaska in July 2011. It suits us better with vacation from work etc.
So we will more than likely be flying into Vancouver, and staying with some relatives for a few days. Then the plan is get Alaska, and hire a car for 2 weeks touring, and fly back from Anchorage to Vancouver. I have come up with a few options, and would appreicate any advice.

Option 1: Fly Vancouver to Juneau. Hire car in Junenau Airport, and drive do a loop from Juneau via Whitehorse, Dawson, Tok, Fairbanks, Denali, Wasilla, Anchorage, Seward and back to Juneau. Then fly back to Vancouver from Juneau, and acthc international flight home. Advantage of this being a return hire car is cheaper. IS 2 weeks enough for this loop?

Option 2: Similar to option 1, except fly VanC to Anchorage, and hire car there instead of juneau. But do pretty much the same loop.

Option 3: Fly into Anchorage, Hire a car, and shorten the loop to Denali, Fairbanks, Tok, Glenallen, Seward.

Option 4: ANy other suggestions???!!!1
Howey is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 04:23 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
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What in the world?

You CAN'T drive anywhere (significant) from Juneau, Alaska.

There are no roads to anywhere else.

Only ways to get to or from Juneau in reasonable fashion are by water or air.

I basically approve of your doing this as a 2-week "loop" from Anchorage. (make sure you keep "Seward" on your list)
NorthwestMale is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 12:16 PM
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thanks northwestmale,

do you think i could cover all of the following in 2 weeks from Anchorage?
Whitehorse, Dawson, Tok, Fairbanks, Denali, Wasilla, Seward

Howey is offline  

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